Following the rising trends of digitalizatlon and globalized information, the realm of mass media has successfully expanded far beyond many international borders and is providing information to more people than ever. Means of this include broadcast media, such as film, radio, music recordings, and television, and digital media, involving email, social media sites, websites, and online streaming services all of which make use of electronic devices to transmit information. With these incredible feats of socioeconomic development, the media now holds even greater power in shaping and influencing public opinion than before.
However, as shifts towards opinion-based and sensationalized media occur, the possibility of selective reporting and media bias both increase as well.
This may then lead to greater opportunities for misconceptions and misunderstandings to grow, wrongfully educating masses of people and, at times, even sparking outrage and controversy. Using different media representations of Africa as examples, the above theory can thus be proven. In “Today‘s Media: What Voice in Foreign Policy?”, Carroll acknowledges that news media, specifically in America has become much more powerful as “new technologies have enabled communications networks to deliver news instantaneously from almost anywhere on earth mergers of electronic media and newspaper chains have created strong, fiercely competitive news organizations the adversarial relationship between journalists and foreign policymakers has intensified.
” With the aid of these more stable, more integrated spheres of influence, media outlets can both speak to and for the people in much greater, easier, cheaper ways than before.
However, according to Yi and Dukes, “media firms have reduced coverage of news-based programs in favor of more opinion- and discussion-based programs” Rather than report news in a neutral and impartial manner, media outlets have now elected to report from a particular stance in order to be more competitive and appealing to audiences.
This can range from articles about politics to articles regarding social issues, often paired with sensationalistic headlines, as “the significance of media texts is that readers and viewers assume that they are attempts at representing reality”, this may draw in more attention and traffic from people, but consequently also draws the focus away from the facts and more towards the frenzy. An example of this would be the reports of the ebola epidemic of 2014, which led to widespread panic across America— “fear-bola” (Robbins)—as opposed to increasing awareness and concern towards the source of the epidemic in Western Africa Although the hysteria eventually calmed down, the reactions from the American public showed the results of a common media manipulation tactic: suppression by omission.
This method is defined as the omission of vital details of a story, or occasionally “the entire story itself, even ones of major importance” (Parenti) in this case, the reality of the epidemic within west Africa, with “more than 4,000 dead, and the outbreak is doubling in size every three weeks” (Robbins), was omitted in the light of extreme fears regarding the possibility of an outbreak within the United States. Therefore, the main focus is shifted and old stigmas featuring “an archaic and dire image of Africa” (Safari) persist and are thus unintentionally strengthened. Recently, however, more effort has been put in to provide a more accurate depiction of Africa’s current state, despite the skewed perceptions that have affected the country’s global reputation “since pre~slavery times“ (Safari). In Al Jazeera’s Empire segment on “The New Scramble for Africa”, for example, host Bishara interviews a number of East African locals, investors, and scholars to gain a better perspective on the state of the developments in Nairobi, Kenya—East Africa‘s greatest financial hub.
Contrary to the campaigns run by charity organizations to sponsor assistance to hungry and diseased African children, this documentary provides a realistic view of the effects recent economic changes have brought to East Africa. This includes the migration of tens and thousands of Chinese people to Nairobi, taking their place as the country’s most prominent investors and bringing vast improvements to city-wide infrastructural systems. As this trend continues, the documentary also explores whether the Chinese-dominated service sector (involving Chinesbuilt structures and Chinese operated services across Africa is giving way to modern imperialism, whether the benefits of recent socioeconomic developments have only reached the elite, as well as whether privatized companies are reducing job opportunities for African youth, all of which are issues similar to those many investors and service-providers also worry about for developed countries worldwide.
Thus, with the use of another media manipulation tactic: labelling, “to predetermine our perception of a subject with a positive or negative label” (Parenti), this concept of a ”New Africa” invites us to view Africa as an unexplored realm of potential and possibility, instead of being dominated by “conflict, wars, famine and disasters” (Safari), 50, we are introduced to a much more positive take on Africa, and are also asked to reconsider whether the generalization in the word “Africa” is due to implicit racism or the birth of a new pan-African identityr SBS Duteline’s segment on the “Born Free” generation of South African youth continues this optimistic view on the new eras that have taken over different regions of Africa. This new generation of youth are considered “the legacy of Apartheid”, born during the democratic era that ended a long history of racial segregation, not unlike what occurred in America due to the Jim Crow laws from the late 18905. From the personal interviews conducted throughout the segment, it is clearly shown that this new generation is highly motivated to pursue their own dreams and find personal success.
As Thabo, a member of the fashion designer trio that was interviewed states: “You can’t wait for the government to buy you a house, You need to work, you need to involve yourself.“ Leroy, a builder who was working to improve living conditions in Johannesburg, echoes this idea, believing that “we have to take our country by our own hands and starting developing it ourselves.” From the above quotes, as well as the youths’ . Westernized style of dress and the existence of a South African Rolling Stone magazine, the segment manages to reduce cultural presumptions and depicts the post-Apartheid generation as a driven group determined to reach their goals on their own. In the latter half of “Born Free”, it is even shown that these youths are attempting to reclaiming the racial slur “kaffir”, which previously held historical significance as a derogatory term, based on the above examples, although.
Western media commonly elects to ignore “the continent‘s sustained efforts to change the lives of its people for the better” (Safari), it is undeniable that the more developed areas of Africa are slowly inching towards even greater prosperity and success within our globalized world. Despite common misconceptions and assumptions, it is also remarkable to see parallels between American history and that of Africa, perhaps showing that the two aren‘t so different after all. To conclude, the media has played an incredibly influential role in our lives, not only affecting our beliefs but our livelihoods as well. Due to shifts towards opinion-based media and sensationalism, it has become easier to perpetuate aged beliefs that are no longer true, such as the idea that the entirety of Africa is war~torn, disease—ridden, and in dire need of help.
Despite this, recent representations of both Eastern and Southern Africa have massively differed from previous assumptions made, allowing more African people to let their voices be heard and invite new voices to speak for their nation. Hence, with the rise of more realistic depictions of life and developments in Africa, it also brings hope that the economic success the continent has been denied of for so long will slowly but surely make its way across its numerous cities. After all, if not for the far reaches of mass media, who would‘ve known Africa was on the road towards finding its place within our still-globalizing world of exchange and development?